If you’re wondering whether cardio is really the only way to lose fat, W&H’s Health and Fitness Coach Annie Deadman is here to help.
THE BIG QUESTION
‘Do I really have to do cardio to lose fat?’
No! There it is. Out loud. One enormous myth totally busted. And, sisters, that’s not a personal opinion, that’s raw fact. Today’s column is about cardio versus resistance training for losing body fat, so let’s tuck in. Let me set the scene…
Cardio (swimming, running, cycling) will increase your cardiovascular fitness. CV fitness is one component of our overall physical fitness… stay with me, this is important… and this is about improving the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles. So, if you’re not used to exercise and you suddenly make a 100-metre dash for the train, then the speed at which the heart can pump out enough blood (containing that oxygen) to your legs will be slower than for the woman behind you who is also late but regularly runs a 10k.
Her heart will have adapted during her training and will be able to deliver more blood to her legs, in fewer pumps, for longer periods of time. Get my drift? Both women may well be carrying too much fat, but that’s different. Running keeps us fit, but it doesn’t necessarily keep us in shape. If you’re looking to lose fat, read on!
This involves overloading your muscles and taking them out of their comfort zone. Moves such as squats, bicep curls, push-ups and so on. The muscles change because small muscle fibres tear (sounds gruesome, it isn’t really), and they grow back dense and toned and firm.
So Ms Not-Very-Fit does 10 squats and hurts so much that she can’t sit on the loo the next day. Ms Really-Quite-Fit regularly knocks out four sets of 10 squats a few times a week and has started to love that burny feeling. Her body has adapted and her legs are super firm. She can sit on the loo with precious little pain. Interestingly, the effects of those squats will last them both longer.
Both types of exercise (cardio and resistance) burn energy (calories). In fact, 30 minutes of running at a good pace will most likely burn more calories than 30 minutes of resistance training. And that is why the old chestnut of cardio = fat loss has stuck so rigidly. But it is having firm muscles that burns fat. I’m not saying don’t do cardio; I’m just saying add in resistance training too.
FLEX SOME MUSCLE
Muscle is a more metabolically active tissue than fat …which is a posh way of saying it burns more calories at rest. By having firmer muscle through your resistance training, your metabolic rate will rise. So often, I hear women say, ‘I can’t lose weight because I have a slow metabolism.’ Then raise it!
Firmer muscles will mean better supported joints and stronger bones, both of which are allies in the descent toward the golden years. But lean muscle mass diminishes with age, so by the time we hit menopause, we’re all moaning that we’ve put on body fat. We can reverse this simply by starting a resistance training programme.
Start with body-weight moves. Follow an online workout suitable for your level. You won’t get muscular – you will get firm and strong. The most important factor to successfully lose fat is always going to be making healthy diet choices. Feed those muscles with protein, eat good fats and whole carbohydrates, and a minimum amount of sugar.
Then add in exercise, but choose what makes you happy and make resistance training a part of that. The empowerment and downright upbeat feeling that some humming muscles gives you is glorious.
Written by Annie Deadman | Health & Fitness coach